At a protest against the homeless and housing crisis on Dublin’s O’Connell Street last November
On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Dr Geraldine Casey, from the HSE’s Department of Public Health in Limerick, spoke to Dr Gavin Jennings about new research she led into the long-term effect of homelessness on children in Limerick.
The most recent figures from the Department of Housing state there were 3,422 children living in homeless accommodation, as of the final week in December 2019.
Dr Casey said:
“The actual physical space that children are growing up in is affecting their development. So, if you think about a child living in a hotel room they can always have their hand to something at all times. So actually they don’t know if a lot of the children can walk independently or not.
“Or a child doesn’t have the chance to walk independently. So they’re seeing that children are delayed in their physical development because of the homeless situation that they’re in and the environment that they’re placed in.
“So last year 278 children in Limerick were housed in hotel rooms and another 250 in homeless hubs so it’s a significant number of children and a significant affect on them.”
“This study didn’t specifically look at that [the difference between family hubs and hotels]. We were just, I suppose this was an initial exercise and scoping, asking people what they thought the issues were. But I suppose a hotel room would be seen to be a worse environment than a homeless hub would be because hubs would provide much more space.
“Some of the hubs are actual apartments and other ones are rooms with shared and communal living.”
Dr Casey added:
“Another issue with the physical space is one service provider described a child having to do their homework on the toilet, sitting inside in the en suite because the younger children were asleep and so the lights needed to be turned off in the main room.
“And really I suppose there was a lot of issues with that, with affecting children’s education. So such is the trauma that children are experiencing they find it difficult to engage with education as well as the difficulties with just actually getting to school in the morning, if you’re placed in hub which is placed far away from where you live [sic].”
“…we know that when children experience trauma in childhood that this will, can have an affect on their physical and mental health into the future.
“…that affect of the homelessness will last into the future and will impact on children’s health.”
“…there is growing research on adverse childhood experiences and homelessness for a young child is a traumatic experience so it absolutely would have affects. There are things that can mitigate those affects such as having strong relationships and having stability and obviously children who are placed in a homeless environment don’t have that stability.
“So we would have to, you know, look into helping them in the future with reducing those effects.”
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